Community Hero: South Yorkshire woman explains the joys of community work

Penny Lloyd-Rees, of Conisbrough Forward.
Penny Lloyd-Rees, of Conisbrough Forward.

Without people like Penny Lloyd-Rees community life would be a much duller place.

The grandmother-of-two works tirelessly to help make her historic home village of Conisbrough in Doncaster a great place to live, work and socialise.

From l tor Christine Spence, a fellow director, councillor Sean Gibbons and Penny Lloyd-Rees.

From l tor Christine Spence, a fellow director, councillor Sean Gibbons and Penny Lloyd-Rees.

The 55-year-old stepped in to help the Conisbrough Forward community group when it was facing an uphill struggle to keep going in 2013. In her role as director she has helped to transform the fortunes of the group. She took time out of her busy schedule to give an insight into her work.

What inspired you to get involved in community work?

I went to a meeting when Conisbrough Forward was in danger of winding down, as all of the directors at the time were ready to retire and there was no-one to take their place. They were well known for staging the Christmas market and I felt quite strongly that the event shouldn’t stop as it created such a great spirit of community.

I muddled through that first market with plenty of help from the previous organiser, but since then I have taken over the running of the Conisbrough Summer Gala which the council used to run and, in partnership with the Conisbrough Music Fest team, I help organise the music festival as well.

Last year Conisbrough Forward got involved with the Crags area and we are working with community groups and authorities to tidy up the area and try to make it the country park that it deserves to be. I am also embarking on organising some short walks in the area.

What is a typical day in your role?

There is no typical day, which is the beauty of the job. I always check my emails at the beginning of the day, and sometimes they shape what I do for the rest of the day, depending on whether I am preparing for an event or major project; I may do some research online, visit groups to keep abreast of the work they are doing and letting them know what we are involved with, attend meetings, write reports, event applications and risk assessments and funding bids - anything that needs doing really.

What have been your highlights over the years and what have you found most rewarding?

Being part of Conisbrough Music Fest has to be the highlight so far - seeing so many people gathered together and enjoying a real community event with fantastic local bands, great weather and a real family atmosphere was so good for the soul. Another highlight is the Tour de Yorkshire - a brilliant opportunity to showcase Conisbrough to the world.

What keeps you going during a hard week?

My busiest weeks are usually just before an event when everything seems to go wrong at the last minute and need sorting out, but the rewards are great when I see everything resolved and the community coming together to enjoy themselves. Everything gets put into perspective when I write up the event for the local press and all the hard work is justified.

What else do you hope to achieve as part of the role?

I am committed to getting Conisbrough on the tourist map. For too long people have come to visit the castle and left without walking the short distance to the centre of the village to appreciate buildings - such as the oldest church in South Yorkshire and the 17th century old hall - or visit the heritage centre based in the community library which displays many old photos and artefacts of Conisbrough. The shops in the village need visitors to keep them going.

What would you say to somebody considering community work? Why is it worth doing?

Meeting so many great people who care for the community as much as I do. Feeling part of the whole ‘life’ of the area and taking pride in small achievements is good for everyone. Next time you see a poster for a litter pick or an article asking for people to join in an event just try it and see if you agree.